All posts by Procurious HQ

Smart Cities – Revolutionising Public Procurement in Barcelona

Barcelona – a city of churches, tapas and endless Gaudi landmarks – boasts an intriguing procurement initiative that is fundamentally changing public procurement methodology. 

Sagrada-Familia-1100x688

The concept is new and the way changes are being made is a stroke of genius. Traditionally, public procurement initiatives have looked something like this:

  1. Determine the problem
  2. Determine a solution
  3. Develop a scope of work containing detailed specifications as to how the problem should be solved
  4. Go to market to see who can meet your specification.

Decision-making is generally carried out within the four walls of a government building and leads to nothing more than a race to the lowest price point between two or three large suppliers.

Turning Public Procurement on its Head

Barcelona has completely flipped this process. Rather than telling suppliers what they want, they are simply outlining problems that are present within the city (like bicycle theft or potholes in the road) and asking the public to come up with innovative ways to solve them.

By opening civic problems up to the cities entrepreneurs, Barcelona is leveraging a vast pool of innovation and creativity that resides within its city. The following quote by CityMart‘s (the organisation behind this initiative) CEO, Sascha Haselmayer, sums up the approach brilliantly.

“City governments need to get out of procuring by specifying the solution they want. They can’t possibly have enough knowledge to do that well. What they should do is specify the problem they want to solve and show metrics on what success looks like. And then allow the market to inspire them to find the best solutions.”

As well as suggesting product solutions, applicants to the BCN Open Challenge are encouraged to challenge current city regulations and services in order to address six of the city’s key civic problems. Essentially, the canvas is blank and creativity, freethinking and innovation are encouraged.

The response to this initiative has been astonishing. Since Barcelona published its six city challenges online, the initiative has received over 50,000 views and more than 100 official submissions. CityMart stated that a benchmark number of views for public procurement contracts of this nature would normally be around 7,000.

Boost for Small Business    

In a country whose economic woes are well documented, this initiative provides a vital lifeline to Barcelona’s small and medium sized organisations. CityMart claim that 98 per cent of all ‘open procurement’ projects listed on it’s website are awarded to small and medium sized organisations.

This is a significant contrast to traditional public procurement tendering practices; where long lists of specifications and pre-requisites along with protracted contract award cycles, rule out all but the largest and most established suppliers from winning public contracts.

When you consider that city and community spending globally accounts for $45 USD trillion a year (yes that’s right…TRILLION!), you begin to get an understanding of the impact this sort of initiative could have for small businesses across the world.

An Engaged Community

It’s not just small business that benefits from the new model Barcelona has implemented. The project is making huge progress in improving community engagement. The city defines its problems in conjunction with its citizens, encourages these citizens to suggest solutions, and then uses tax payer funds to provide a work space from where these problems can be solved.

If that’s not effective community engagement, we don’t know what is. The project’s tagline is ‘Open for business. Open for innovation’ and it certainly holds true.

While opening a city’s problems up to the public certainly encourages innovation, community engagement, and supports small business, it’s important not to overlook the financial benefits these projects can create.

Global consultancy firm McKinsey has estimated that city governments can reap savings of up to 10 per cent by opening up procurement contracts and leveraging innovative community based problems solving.

Don’t tell your suppliers specifications…ask them for solutions

All procurement teams can learn something from the work that is happening in Barcelona. Procurement professionals could all benefit from being a little less prescriptive in telling suppliers what it is they want. The power is in admitting that these teams alone can’t possibly come up with the best solution to every business problem they face.

But how can professionals possibly know what they want when they don’t know what’s out there? By admitting their ignorance and opening up problems to more people, it is possible to leverage the vast creativity and innovative power that lies within communities.

So move your discussions away from specifications and prescriptive statements of work, be more creative and stop telling people what you want and start asking for solutions.

Think Quality Over Price When Purchasing Corporate Uniforms

Price isn’t the most important element of a uniform negotiation, according to a disruptor in the Australian uniform industry. 

Cargo Crew

An award-winning Australian uniform market disrupter has urged procurement professionals to think twice when considering haggling on price for the company’s corporate attire.

Melbourne’s modern uniform manufacturer, Cargo Crew, reveals that while procurement is far more than just being about price these days, some negotiations start and finish with price and deadline requirements. Other procurement professionals appear to be more progressive in their approach, treating the transaction as a partnership rather than a mere supplier by looking for ways to cement a strong relationship from the outset.

Choosing Quality

“We’re dealing with procurement professionals in increasing numbers, and want to help them understand the benefits of a quality uniform, which has the potential to transform the entire image of an organisation overnight,” client service director, Narelle Craig, says.

“You should never under-estimate the importance of the corporate uniform when you’re next in the market for an upgrade.

“When it comes to uniforms, price should not be the most important factor. We use audited factories to manufacture our product line, have ethical certifications not to mention using the highest quality materials and a client care team, and all of that comes at a cost. But it delivers huge value to an organisation, and removes a lot of the headaches felt by procurement professionals who have countless things to consider when ordering a uniform,” Craig says.

By choosing a quality uniform, procurement professionals are saving their company money in the long term. This is because they don’t have to replace their uniforms as often, saving the resources to coordinate re-ordering uniforms, and lessens the number of staff complaints that their uniform isn’t wearing well.

‘Fashion-Forward’ Uniforms

Cargo Crew was launched in 2002 by Craig’s sister, Felicity Rodgers, who as a fashion designer noticed a gap in the market for fashion-forward uniforms.

The business has flourished since launching its first range of Denim uniforms in 2012. Cargo Crew has dressed growing numbers of corporate Australian and New Zealand organisations including staff at Renault, Freedom Australia, ME (the bank), Dulux Group and SkyBus.

Comfort, the breathability of the fabric, attention to details such as longer length tees and shirts so staff can reach comfortably in the line of duty is paramount, Rodgers says.

“A uniform completes an organisation’s corporate story and reflect what the business stands for. Staff need to feel really good about what they wear, and again, that comes at a cost. Procurement people need to keep in mind the style, look and image they want to reflect in their brand,” Rodgers says.

“We set out to create a uniform brand that not only filled a gap in the market, but also excited and engaged our audience.”

The business is also investing heavily in operations under the watchful eye of Paul Rodgers (Felicity’s husband), who is focused on business efficiencies such as warehousing space, online ordering platforms, reporting and client management.

Cargo Crew Team

The Cargo Crew Lead Team (l-r): Paul Rodgers, Felicity Rodgers, Narelle Craig

Direct to Client Sales

Cargo Crew differs from other uniform suppliers in that it cuts out the middle man, selling a retail-quality product direct to the client rather than to a wholesaler to on-sell.

The business won the 2015 Telstra Australian Small Business of the Year Award for developing a product range with flair usually lacking in the wardrobes of corporate Australia. The Telstra Award comes on the back of 44 per cent overall sales uplift year-on-year and a growing number of corporates interested in their product, which boasts 60 variations.

In the past six months, the company’s stock holding size has grown six times. The world is sitting up and taking notice, too, with interest and orders coming from Italy, USA, UK, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Sweden, France and more.

The emphasis on style has seen the Melbourne-based business with an online store transform the modern uniform since the company launched 14 years ago. Cargo Crew now employs 18 staff.

“We’ve noticed both small and big competing businesses try to mimic our style, brand and product range, which is actually a big compliment, but of course brings its own set of challenges to the table that we’ve had to deal with.”

Cargo Crew has increased the partnerships it has, expanded its range, held a pop-up event in Sydney and even started its own publication, The Crew Review. It also has plans under way to develop a new division of the business for corporate clients, soon to be announced.

Will Amazon Over-Stretch Its Supply Chain with ‘Dash Replenishment’?

Back in March last year, when Amazon announced its ‘Dash’ button service, many people thought it was an early April Fool’s joke. As it turned out, the online giant was completely serious.

Amazon-Dash-Tide

The first Dash devices went live this week and, although currently there are only a small number of products available with Dash Replenishment, it’s clear that Amazon has plans to expand its range and deliver another service that promises to disrupt and change the way we shop for frequently used goods.

Dash Button Partners

For those of you who don’t know, the Amazon Dash Button is a wifi-enabled electronic device, aimed at making re-ordering commonly used consumables and household goods easier. Each Dash Button is unique to a specific product, and when the button is pushed, an order is placed for that product through the user’s Amazon shopping app.

The Dash Buttons exist in two formats. First, the Buttons are built into electronic equipment (think printers, washing machines, etc.) and are used to reorder consumables specifically for that equipment. The second format are buttons, sold individually, for specific products (washing powder, toilet roll) that users can leave in convenient places around the house to assist with their shopping.

To begin with the Buttons will only be available on request to Amazon customers who are already registered for Amazon Prime. Once requested, customers will then link the Buttons to their existing accounts.

To date, Amazon has announced Dash deals with a number of electronics manufacturers, including Samsung, Whirlpool and Brother, as well as with large FMCG organisations like P&G, for products like Tide and Bounty.

Supply Chain Pressure

It is a testament to Amazon’s willingness to push the boundaries of their business model that they would even try this sort of service. Not known as a site where household items are commonly purchased, Amazon are looking to leverage their experience in current activities and try to change our shopping habits. Again.

However, some experts have warned that Amazon might be putting too much pressure on their service management systems and supply chain by introducing another service that is built around fast delivery and high levels of customer service.

With an increasing number of customers using Amazon’s Prime next-day delivery service, the launch of Amazon Prime Now one-hour delivery in some cities around the world, not to mention the roll-out of Prime Now Restaurant delivery in some American cities, it’s not difficult to see where issues may arise.

Neil Penny, product director at Sunrise Software, comments: “Amazon’s Dash Replenishment is the retail giant’s foray into instant gratification and user convenience, with the model using connected devices to potentially provide limitless access to products while also removing any effort from the user themselves.

“However, the more seamless and predictive a service appears, the more work must go on in the background to meet these mounting expectations. While the idea is great on paper, it is questionable how realistic it will be for most firms with their current fulfilment strategies.”

Customer Expectations

As with anything else that Amazon does, customer expectations will be high. The retailer will have to work hard to ensure that the expectations are met for both product availability and delivery times.

In order to make sure that this venture succeeds, Amazon will have to work closely with its own service providers and supply chain to ensure that the products currently available under Dash Replenishment are available when required, and that the service providers can meet deadlines for stock delivery, delivery capacity and order prioritisation.

And should the current model succeed, it may see Amazon expand the products available, both for the inbuilt and individual buttons, as well as having other companies follow suit with their own products.

Penny states, “While Amazon’s new service is launching with products like print and washing supplies, the automatic model is likely to see widespread adoption across other companies and industries in the next few years.  With IoT-enabled devices becoming increasingly more commonplace, more firms will come under pressure to adopt similar approaches.

“Being able to keep track of the complex web of suppliers and service level agreements and respond to demands quickly will be an absolute requirement for any service provider hoping to keep up with demand.”

Migration, Terrorism and Industry 4.0 – Highlights from WEF 2016

Almost a year ago to the day, Procurious published an article on the outcomes of the World Economic Forum 2015. We also took a look at the key topics that were to be discussed during the 2015 event.

WEF 2016

You might be forgiven for thinking that, since the leaders from the world’s largest economies gathered in Davos twelve months ago, very little has changed. There are still major issues with global markets, falling oil prices, interstate conflicts and climate change.

Add to these factors the growing migration from war-torn regions, and terrorism, both on the ground and cyber-related, and it was a recipe for a very busy Forum.

What Was Different?

Despite all the pressing issues highlighted above, the WEF organisers picked a different topic to be the main theme for 2016 – Industry 4.0. This topic focuses on the so-called “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, where industries are increasingly digitised, and humans are replaced in many professions by robots or AI.

While this might be a positive thing for some of the attendees, including Jack Ma (Founder of Alibaba), Sheryl Sandberg (CEO of Facebook) and Eric Schmidt (Head of Alphabet, Google’s parent company), it is potentially very bad news for both blue and white collar workers, with an estimated 7 million jobs at risk over the next 5 years in the world’s largest economies.

Klaus Schwab, founder and president of the WEF, has written a book on ‘Industry 4.0’, in which he states, “We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another.” This theme also included a discussion on ‘smart machines’ being used in war zones.

What Else Was on the Agenda?

A number of other major themes appeared on the agenda, including terrorism, the migration crisis, cybercrime, and the on-going impact of the slowdown in the Chinese economy on the financial markets of the rest of the world.

In the run up to the 2016 event, the Global Risks Report published by the WEF highlighted large-scale ‘involuntary migration’, for example from civil wars, as this year’s major risk in terms of impact, and mitigation of climate change as the most likely global risk. This is the first time that an environmental issue has topped this particular list.

Climate change was one of the hot topics of the Forum, as leaders discussed the next steps and how to build upon the COP Climate Change Agreement that was signed in Paris in December last year. Global climate change is seen as having a major impact on other risks, such as food and water shortages and regional conflict, so the topic was never far from the centre of discussions.

Anything else?

Leaders also managed to find time to talk extensively about the global markets, including the impact of the slowdown in the Chinese economy. Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF, spoke on Friday about the need for Chinese authorities to communicate better with global markets over moves in equities and foreign exchange markets, in order to head off any further market downturns.

However, it’s not all bad news, as Lagarde stated that China’s move from an export-led to domestic consumer market economy was “manageable”, while holding estimates for Chinese growth at 6.5 per cent. It’s hoped that this turnaround will arrest fears of another global recession.

Major Conclusions

As the Forum drew to a close on Friday, there was a sense that 2016 could be a year of major upheaval, with markets not expected to recover immediately, slow growth predicted for at least the first half of the year, and a solution still required for mass migration.

However, there also appeared to be a feeling of tangible outputs from a business point of view. The central theme of ‘Industry 4.0’ raised interesting points around the future of many industries, and in a number of sessions, there was agreement that business needed to step away from a narrow focus on profits and take steps to improve workers’ conditions, promote diversity and take a perspective that covered a wider group of stakeholders.

It will be interesting to see if we are still talking about the same issues when the 2017 Forum rolls around in 12 months.

Need some headlines and stories for your morning coffee with your friends? Procurious has got you covered…

BMW Top Sustainable Corporations List

  • BMW has topped Corporate Knights Magazine’s annual ‘Global 100’ list of sustainable corporations for 2016
  • The study looks at companies with a market valuation of $2 billion or high, and scores them against global industry peers on a list of 12 quantitative KPIs not exclusive to to environmental sustainability
  • Companies are scored on these KPIs, and the top performer from each industry outlined in the Global Industry Classification Standard goes to the final list
  • 2016’s list also included Dassault Systemes (Ranked 2nd), Outotec (3rd) and Commonwealth Bank of Australia (4th)

Read more at Corporate Knights

Thai Shrimp Migrant Workers Risk Being ‘Sold Off’

  • Following a number of high-profile reports and news headlines, the Thai shrimp industry is cleaning up its supply chain, but with unintended consequences
  • Migrant workers, the subject of many of the headlines, are being laid off without any form of compensation, leaving them at risk of being “sold off” to other companies
  • Activists claim that some workers are still in debt to their employers, and have just been moved on to another industry and face similar conditions
  • Firms are now being urged to offer these workers employment in the regulated operations

Read more at Thomson Reuters

Changing Thrift Shopping in Vancouver

  • A new business has been launched in Vancouver to change the way residents approach thrift shopping in the face of ‘fast fashion’
  • ‘My Modern Closet’, founded by Chloe Popove, is the first consignment store to offer people donating to the business a collection option, with customers then being given 20 per cent cashback or credit to shop online
  • It is hoped that the business will encourage more people to donate used or unwanted clothing and fight the impact of fast fashion
  • Any un-sold clothing is donated on to charities helping to give clothes to the homeless, and to Syrian refugees

Read more at Vancitybuzz.com

Starbucks Mobile Ordering Hits 1m Users Per Month

  • Starbucks has revealed that it is processing over 6 million transactions per month on its mobile app, as more people use it to order their coffee
  • In the final quarter of 2015, 21 per cent of all orders in the US at Starbucks were placed through the app, and this is expected to grow this year
  • First launched in Portland in 2015, the service is now widely available across the USA, Canada and the UK
  • The coffee giant is now looking to extend the service by offering delivery of coffee to users of the app

Read more at NBC News

Procurious Big Ideas Panel Discussion #3 – Are Business Costs Too High or Too Low?

Are business costs too high? Or too low? And where does procurement sit in this matter?

The third discussion panel at the Big Ideas Summit 2015 took place in the innovative format of a ‘fishbowl’ discussion, where participants argue both sides of the lead question, but where the audience can also get involved.

The panel started with Chris Lynch, Theano Liakopoulou, Chris Sawchuk and David Noble, gradually interchanging the other thought leaders as the discussion progressed. In an often heated environment, a number of hot topics were raised and some great insights released.

Watch the full discussion here.

See all the keynotes and panel discussions from the Big Ideas Summit, plus Big Ideas from our 40+ Influencers.

Like this? Join Procurious for FREE and meet like-minded procurement professionals from across the world.

5 Things You Need to Know About Working in Germany

When you think of Germany, pretzels, beer and BMWs are common stereotypes that come to mind. But there is much more to Deutschland than that – especially if you are planning to work.

Reichstag

A country built on research, innovation and its ability to attract foreign direct investment (FDI), with the biggest economy in Europe and the fourth largest in the world – who wouldn’t want the opportunity to work in Germany?

Not only home to many of the European and Worldwide market leaders, recent figures show more than 45,000 foreign companies are also conducting business there. Although many more factors have helped shape German industry, this structure has consequently had deep impacts on the Procurement (Beschaffung) role.

The Need to Know

Procurious founder, Tania Seary, recently had the opportunity to meet the leadership team from the German Association of Materials Management, Purchasing and Logistics (BME) in Frankfurt. BME have established themselves as a professional association for buyers and logistics, supporting members in developing new markets and the configuration of economic processes.

According to BME, there are more than 100,000 procurement professionals working in Germany, so here’s what you need to know if you’re looking to join them:

  1. Germans can be considered the masters of planning

Doing business in Germany without adequate cross-cultural awareness is a risky proposition, and businesses should ensure they carry with them an appreciation of both the business landscape and the culture. Hierarchy is highly valued in Germany, and there are often myriad procedures and policies which can slow things down, so having a bit of patience is crucial to the success of business negotiations.

The desire for orderliness spills over into the business life of Germans – surprises and humour are not welcome! According to the German Business Culture Guide, everything is carefully planned out and decided upon, with changes rarely occurring after an agreement is made.

  1. Get used to some straight talking

There are cultural differences at play. The German business culture is perhaps less instantaneous than in countries like the UK, and personal relationships that are developed slowly over time are seen as a more desirable way to do business. Don’t be surprised if you jump straight into business talk, as there is little time for small talk.

  1. A series of villages, not really a country

Germany is a country with a long history and vast cultural differences throughout. For a country of its size (only 357,000km² – Australia is 21 times bigger), it has 16 states and over 400 districts.

This means you’re going to need to recognise the contrasts across the country, especially as industry is fragmented and big companies operate often in small villages. Although complex, this presents a fantastic opportunity to learn how to work with, and understand, different cultures – a brilliant training ground for future leaders.

  1. If you’re a social media nut – this is a different landscape

By sheer numbers, social media is as popular here as the rest of the world. According to the EU’s “Passport to Trade” more than 75 per cent of all Germans over 14 years of age use the Internet in some way, and 90 per cent of 14 to 29 year olds are on social media.

What is different about social media in Germany is the popularity of the local, German-only networks, in addition to the global players. The most popular networks listed according to their number of users are (get ready – you may not have even heard of some of these):

  • Facebook
  • Google+
  • Xing
  • Wer-kennt-wen
  • MeinVZ/StudyVZ
  • LinkedIn
  • MySpace
  • Lokalisten.

Up until 2009, there were up to 15 million German-speaking users on a German language network resembling Facebook called StudiVZ. But Facebook eventually conquered Germany (as it has for most of the world), as it enabled users to socialise and interact with people outside Germany too.

There is a Russian joke that says:  “Twitter can’t be popular in Germany, because 140 characters are basically two words in German.”  There are certainly enough short words to compose tweets in German, but when you read that only 10 per cent of Germans use Twitter, it makes you think there might be some truth to that joke.

With words like “kraftfahrzeughaftpflichtversicherung” meaning ‘car liability insurance’, and “donaudampfschifffahrtsgesellschaftskapitaenswitwe” meaning ‘widow of a Danube steamboat company captain’, let’s hope Twitter changes to a 15,000-character limit soon!

  1. And your role in procurement…

Procurement is not the only function of choice – it’s one of hundreds – and, if you’re coming from a large multinational corporation, a word you need to understand and add to your vocabulary is “Mittelstand”.

We often throw in terms like MNCs and SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) around when asked who your employer is, but statistically what is the real difference?

Statistically, any business with fewer than 500 employees is classed as an SME. However, in Germany this would mean that 99 per cent of businesses would fall into this category.

So the Germans created the world “Mittelstand”, which can refers to both SMEs and much larger companies, if they are run in the same spirit. This typically means the owner or owners take business decisions largely on their own, but retain close ties with both the business and the employees.

This involvement with the business applies to over 3.6 million “Mittelstand” companies, providing more than 60 per cent of all jobs in Germany, and making up 53 per cent of the country’s GDP. So the chances are you’ve already conducted business with a potential employer.

There you have it – some top tips for working and doing business in Germany. And if you’re looking for a job there, or plan on working there in the future, good luck (or as the Germans say…viel Glück!)

Labour Market Figures Suggest Need for New Approach to Skills Gap

The Open University says businesses and universities must work more closely to address skills shortages.

Skills-Shortage-Graduates

Figures released today show that the UK continues to face up to a worsening skills crisis. Despite the overall rise in job creation, the vacancy rate continues to increase, and is particularly acute in specialist areas such as IT and engineering.

The latest Labour Market Figures, produced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal there are 588,000 more people in work than this time last year, but that there has been a 6 per cent increase in the number of unfilled roles over the same period, as there are now 756,000 vacancies.

Concerns for Businesses

The on-going shortage in skilled workers is increasingly causing concern for businesses. Decision makers are facing up to the effects of this market on their businesses: hard to fill vacancies can cause delays in developing new products and services, meanwhile the latest CBI/Accenture Employment Trends Survey, published last week, reveals that over half (52 per cent) of respondents believe that developing and maintaining digital skills within their organisation has a new urgency in this climate.

Despite there being over 2 million students enrolled on degree courses in 2014/15, with a 3 per cent increase in full-time first year enrolments in engineering and technology subjects, businesses often find that graduates are not adequately prepared for the workplace.

The skills gap is affecting UK productivity, for instance, engineering companies have reported an annual shortfall of 55,000 skilled workers. It has been estimated that addressing the shortage of skills in this area could generate £27 billion per year from 2020, roughly equivalent to 1,800 new secondary schools or 110 new hospitals. 

Issues for Small Business

Michael Martins, Economist at the Institute of Directors said: “These jobs figures, which show the British labour market ended 2015 strongly, could be just what the doctor ordered as we see nothing but storm clouds gathering across the global economy.

“While this is clearly good news and the increasing number of vacancies means that the unemployment rate could continue to drop, addressing the skills gap takes on a fresh importance. For small firms that employ fewer than ten employees, the struggle to find workers is particularly acute, with vacancies rising by 13.1 per cent in the last quarter.

This is another reason why employers hope the government will not follow through on suggestions to restrict skilled migration from outside the EU, especially as the monthly quota for Tier 2 visas has been shown to be inadequate in addressing skill shortages.”

An Answer in Workplace-Based Education?

The Open University is arguing that a greater emphasis on workplace-based higher education is necessary to create more value for businesses and individuals alike. Steve Hill, Director of External Engagement at The Open University, comments: “The skills gap is affecting everyone, holding back businesses and having a knock-on effect on British economic productivity.

“In most cases, the answer to this shortage is right under our noses – with up to 90 per cent of the current workforce still in work over the next decade.  With the right training and up-skilling, these individuals can become the engineers, data scientists and high-skilled digital workforce the UK needs to compete on the world stage.

The challenge now is for Governments and the academic sector to work together to develop courses that meet the needs of businesses, and provide the right support for those committed to developing their careers.”

The OU regularly supports over 1,300 organisations, including KMPG, Hay Group and the NHS, delivering flexible learning solutions at scale to address skills shortages and develop high performing workforces. With a global reach and as the UK’s leader in part time education, with 76 per cent of OU’s current students studying whilst working full or part time, the OU is well equipped to deliver consistent learning at scale to dispersed workforces.

How an Agile Supply Chain Can Enhance New Product Development

Is your Supply Chain bolstering or hampering the success of your company’s new products?

new-product-development1

Josh Nelson, a Director in The Hackett Group’s Strategy and Business Transformation Practice, discusses Supply Chain and New Product Development.

An agile supply chain can deliver value to the new product development (NPD) process (outlined in Figure #1) by quickly and pragmatically supporting new products / innovation through the core supply chain processes – plan, procure, manufacture, and deliver.

NPD SCIR Report Slide 1

Figure 1: The New Product Development Process

The Hackett Group’s Perspective

Supply chain plays a critical role across the NPD process, because it drives both the investment of capital into production and distribution capabilities and, in many cases, the critical path for launch dates. Yet, the large task of driving agility and flexibility throughout the supply chain may seem daunting to leaders.

As a starting point, The Hackett Group suggests assessing your current capabilities across the supply chain function against best practices to quickly identify the overall maturity level of your NPD process and highlight improvement opportunities. For example:

  • Can procurement identify and incentivise suppliers to participate in enhanced open innovation capabilities?
  • Can the supply chain and finance organisations develop NPD COGS estimates quickly and accurately?
  • Has the company made the correct investment in piloting plants or scaling up facilities?
  • What is the ability of the planning function to mitigate risk by developing inventory build strategies, identifying NPD demand projections accurately, and aligning lead times to common launch date?

Additionally, when assessing improvement opportunities for supply chain’s role in NPD, consideration should be given to:

  • Marketplace trends
  • Establishing or standardising global metrics to track and assess the effectiveness and efficiency of the NPD process

From there, a transformation roadmap can be created to develop the needed structural and infrastructural elements to enhance and enable new product development though agility and flexibility. This enables your organization to:

  • Identify and develop product concepts with the greatest likelihood of success.
  • Reduce costs by relying on your network of suppliers, customers, and other partners to generate ideas and test products
  • Select and manage a portfolio of projects that are aligned with the company’s revenue and margin growth strategies

Download the full Hackett Group Supply Chain Insight Report here to learn more about trends, best practices, and metrics which help supply chain enable the new product development process.

Josh Nelson has over 18 years of both consulting and industry experience, managing and leading large-scale product development and supply chain improvement programs.

Why You Should Consider Carefully Before Hiring Temporary Labour

Examining your demand costs for temporary labour may make you think twice about bringing in extra help during busy periods. Jon Milton, Business Development Director at Comensura, explains.

Temp-Staffing

The use of temporary labour to bolster a permanent workforce when needed is a no brainer, but have you ever stopped to examine the bigger picture? Have you ever considered whether you really need that extra pair of hands, or if there could be an alternative option? Or, have you thought about the objectives the temporary assignment will deliver or how to make sure this spend comes in on budget?

Demand for temporary labour can be caused by a multitude of factors: the need for extra support during particularly busy periods; short-term planning creating the need for a ‘quick fix’ or ‘firefighting’ solutions; or even temporary workers remaining on assignment even after the original reason for their hire has now gone.

Know Your Demand Costs

Before committing to hiring temporary staff it’s important to consider your demand costs. These costs are the direct result of hiring managers from within your business ordering temporary workers without first justifying the need for the worker, or not fully assessing alternative approaches. In many cases, an understanding of demand costs may mean the full cost can be eliminated, which has the potential to deliver significant savings on temporary labour.

For most businesses, the realisation that demand for temporary labour exists is when the hiring manager asks their line manager to approve a temporary hire or when an internal request for a purchase order is made.

But the starting point for any business case evaluation should be to assess the need for non-permanent extra staff and if justified, how much the business is prepared to spend. It’s important to be clear from the outset and agree an approach to evaluating the internal demand for temporary workers rather than just reacting when requests are made.

Evaluation and Consideration

The process for evaluating the business case for temporary workers should take the following into consideration:

  • usage of temporary workers in different business units
  • the seasonal demands placed on the business unit and its capability to meet demand via its permanent employee headcount
  • the business unit’s workforce plans and how critical a flexible workforce is to deliver an efficient, lean operational performance
  • the complexities of your organisational structure and your approach to decision making, is it centralised or devolved?
  • your priorities as a business – for example, those that need to keep tight control of costs should centralise the approval and assessment of the business case

For those hiring managers and business units with a relatively low or infrequent demand for temporary labour, presenting an informal and individual business case will help ensure temporary labour assignments are appropriately planned, scheduled and authorised.

However, for those that regularly use a large number of temporary workers, it makes sense to create an annual business case for each temporary worker category. The plan should assess the historical usage patterns and expected future demands on the job categories so that the workforce can be appropriately planned, scheduled and authorised. For example, in a warehousing scenario there could be one business case for warehouse operatives and another for fork lift truck drivers.

Essentially, the business case for hiring any temporary workers should consider customer demand and the cost of temporary resources. Also, ask yourself what the measureable outcomes from the additional resources are and whether your business objectives will be met. And finally, consider other employment options, and if other projects or tasks can be put on hold to reprioritise resources.

Are Supply Chain Audits Bad for Good Business?

The line, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”, first appeared in Satires by the Roman poet Juvenal, and literally means “Who will guard the guards themselves?”. The question now being asked is, “Who audits the auditors?”, and the answers don’t look good.

Modern-Day-Slavery

Research from the University of Sheffield released last week claims that supply chain auditors are actually “‘working’ for the corporations”, and ultimately failing both the supply chain workers and the environment they are supposed to be protecting.

“Ineffective Tools”

SPERI, the Sheffield Political Economic Research Institute, conducted 25 interviews over a 2-year period with auditors, business executives, NGOs and suppliers around the world, as well as visiting factories in China, before publishing their results.

The report argues that “audits are ineffective tools for detecting, reporting, or correcting environmental and labour problems in supply chains”, and that many of the problems that ethical audits were created to solve are actually being made worse by the process. This is in part down to the organisations carrying out the audits working towards the interests of businesses.

One auditor was quoted in the report as saying, “we will audit as far down as the brand wants to go”. As stakeholders and organisations, such as ISM and CIPS, focus more on the concept of the end-to-end supply chain, including all supplier and subcontractor practices, it appears that in some cases, the full chain is not being assessed.

The Auditing Industry

A quick Google search for the term ‘supply chain audit’ throws up a vast number of results. Included in these results are a considerable number of private companies who are either supply chain auditors, or offer it as part of their services. The increasing market for ethical audits has led to the creation of a booming industry.

It should be pointed out that these firms are not being accused of falsifying results or deliberately misleading the organisations who are employing them to audit supply chains. The accusations lie in the fact that some practices within the supply chain are being missed.

Apportioning blame, even taking the findings of the SPERI research into account, is not as black and white as people might think. If the organisations carrying out the audits are providing misleading findings, then action must be taken.

However, much as procurement may be bound by a specification when purchasing goods and services, auditors will be bound by what they are requested to do by the employing organisation. The auditors may be culpable for not going far enough, but the blame should be shared if organisations are seeking to limit their activities.

Governmental and Public Input

And perhaps this is part of the issue, in having auditors as commercial enterprises. These organisations will be operated as businesses with the aim of meeting customer demand, but, as a business, still need to make enough money to remain operational and satisfy investors.

The SPERI report argues that ethical audits need greater governmental involvement, both from the point of view of conducting audits, but also in enforcing the required standards for working conditions and the environment. Governmental enforcement of these regulations can be difficult, especially where organisations operate global supply chains and fall under a diverse set of jurisdictions.

Many national Governments are tightening regulations around modern slavery and the environment. The UK Government has announced a set of measures aimed at combatting modern slavery in the supply chain. The newly formed Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority will be able to use the measures to force organisations to take action, where there is belief that offences have occurred.

However, in order for the issues to be tackled effectively across global supply chains, similar measures need to be in place for all countries, or there will always be areas where practices will remain unchecked.

You can find a full copy of the SPERI report here. We’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions on this issue. If you work for an auditing company, let us know your experiences of this too.

In the meantime, you can check out the major headlines in procurement and supply chain this week…

EU to Scrutinise Large Company Big Data Use

  • The European Union is considering whether the way large Internet companies, such as Google or Facebook, collect vast quantities of data is in breach of antitrust rules
  • Margrethe Vestager, European Commissioner for Competition, speaking in Munich over the weekend stated that the EU would step in if Big Data usage was negatively impacting competition
  • Some experts have warned that with a few large companies controlling the data, it becomes harder for new organisations to enter markets, being too far behind to compete effectively
  • Ms. Vestager also said the EU would look into why some companies can’t acquire information that is as useful as the data that other competing firms have.

Read more at the Wall Street Journal

Wholesale Energy Prices Hit 5-Year Low in UK

  • The mild winter in the UK, combined with falling commodity prices, has led to the price of wholesale energy in the UK falling to a 5-year low
  • Electricity prices fell by 23 per cent against the previous year, while gas prices fell by 34 per cent for the same period
  • Increased production capacity in 2016, milder temperatures and increased usage of liquefied natural gas (LNG)in the UK are also thought to be part of the issue
  • However, energy companies have been accused of overcharging their customers by not passing on the reduction in the wholesale prices

Read more at Supply Management

Indian Government to Assist Start-Ups

  • The Modi Government in India has announced plans to assist start-ups in the country by only requiring the businesses to pay statutory fees for getting started
  • In a move designed to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship, the Government will cover the costs of filing of patents, trademarks or designs
  • The Government has also agreed to relax public procurement regulations for start-ups, not requiring the businesses to meet current regulations for prior experience/turnover found in the manufacturing sector
  • The Government hopes that this scheme will eventually lead to the development of start-up organisations in sectors such as agriculture, healthcare and education

Read more at Business Standard

ECHR Rules Companies Can Monitor Employee Internet Usage

  • The European Court for Human Rights has ruled that companies can monitor employees’ internet usage, providing they have given warning beforehand that personal use of facilities is forbidden
  • The ruling comes after a Romanian engineer took his employer to court after being fired for having private conversations with his family on a Yahoo Messenger site
  • The ECHR, finding in favour of the employer, noted in its ruling that “it is not disputed that the applicant’s employer’s internal regulations strictly prohibited employees from using the company’s computers and resources for personal purposes.”
  • This prior warning given to the employee played a large role in the decision, as the Court could rule that it was not a breach of his human rights

Read more at Ars Technica